Tips and Tricks: How to Save Money

Give your air conditioner some space: just like we need to breathe, your air conditioner needs spaced where it's getting air easily. Many air conditioning units are surrounded by shrubs or plants that can restrict the airflow it needs to be able to run efficiently. Take a few minutes this weekend to do the following:

  • Trim up any bushes/shrubs that are touching the unit so there is at least one foot of space between the bush and the unit
  • Clean up the ground for loose debris, branches, or leaves
  • If the outside of the unit has a lot of debris clogging it up, consider having a professional service clean it out

What is SEER and Why Is It Important?


When it comes to cars, we evaluate efficiency based on miles per gallon. With residential air conditioning, efficiency is measured by SEER, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. In effect, the higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the system will be. The U.S. recently adopted minimum SEER requirements, currently 13, and any system over 16 SEER is generally considered high efficiency. A SEER rating over 20 is in the highest efficiency group.

If you’re confused about why efficiency matters, one good reason is cost. A system with a SEER rating of 13 will have to use more energy than a system with a SEER rating of 18. Those energy costs can really add up over the life of your system – up to several hundred dollars per year in savings. A higher efficiency system, because it uses less energy, is also a more environmentally friendly option.

There are a few things you can do to maximize the SEER rating of your air conditioner. These include:

  1. Change the air filter
    A dirty filter will restrict air flow, making your system work much harder, using more energy and costing you more money. Check the filter regularly and follow the manufacturer’s recommended schedule for replacement. A good general rule is a change every three months or at the beginning of every heating and cooling season.
  2. Seal the ducts
    Air that escapes through leaks in a duct increases the amount of time your air conditioner must run to reach your desired level of comfort. Sealing the ducts can improve your efficiency by as much as 20 percent or more. You can seal a duct using duct sealant such as mastic or a metal-backed foil tape.
  3. Use a programmable thermostat
    setting your thermostat to only heat or cool your home during the hours when you’re there can save several hundred dollars per year in energy costs.
  4. Keep the outside unit clean
    any debris built up on the outside coils of your condenser unit will make the system work harder to deliver air flow. Wash off the outdoor unit with a hose on light pressure.

When making any of these decisions it’s always best to consult with a reputable contractor who can explain the various options and walk you through what makes sense for your home.


A Note on R22...

The government has mandated that R22 be phased out. Because this has been the main refrigerant for residential air conditioning systems for fifty years, this decision forces units to be replaced, rather than repaired, when in need of service. The government had stopped manufacturing R22 equipment as well. Even in this time though, we always give fair and competitive prices.

There are alternative ways to unit replacement, too, if there is only a small amount of refrigerant lost. We offer a stop leak and recharging system, and we also offer alternative refrigerants 407c to replace R22. When there's a small leak, using STOP LEAK is a good way to seal the leak to stop the refrigerant from leaking and keep the cost down of the R22. We're doing our best to advise our clients on the alternatives that the customer can make to keep the costs down.

Washing a Condensing Unit

Summer is upon us, and when the heat and humidity sets in you will be thankful for your trusty home air conditioner unit! Property owners have several annual maintenance tasks that come due in the Spring, including several related to AC units. These include clearing away plants that have sprouted up around the unit, changing the air filter. Cleaning your AC unit’s condenser coils takes a very little skill and preparation, but is still a reasonable DIY project for a person with an hour.

Condenser coils make up the outer wall of your air conditioner and allow the system to dissipate the heat created during the compression side of the compression-expansion cycle (it’s the expansion of this liquid refrigerant that has a cooling effect). Over time, these coils can accumulate dust and grime which restricts the flow of air. With less air blowing across the hot coil fins, more heat remains in the system and the cooling effect is reduced, causing your AC to run longer and more often and placing unnecessary strain on your unit. This results in higher electricity costs, a warmer house, and a shorter lifespan of your AC system.

Safety first! Turn off the power supply to your AC unit at your home’s main fuse box or your AC unit may also have an outdoor service disconnect box somewhere nearby. These boxes have pull out fuses, so you can gently pull out the fuse and set it aside. Note the “on” and “off” labels on the fuse’s housing. When you finish cleaning the coils and are ready to reconnect the electricity, be sure to orient the fuse so that the “on” label is visible. Clear away any plants (usually weeds) from around the condenser which can impede air flow, drop leaves on the unit, or even try to attach to it. Brush off any dirt or debris that has accumulated on the square pad that the condenser sits on. This debris can obstruct drainage from inside the unit.

Using a garden hose, thoroughly rinse the condenser coils. We don't recommend using a pressure washer,  A note of caution: the coil fins can be damaged by too much pressure, so use a lower pressure.  Like choosing the standard garden hose and garden nozzle.

Once again, spray from the outside of the machine in. You should see water flowing through the coils and emerging from the outer wall of the unit.

A higher MERV rating means a higher resistance, which means less airflow. When researching HVAC systems, airflow will come up a lot. That's because it's very important for the performance and longevity of your furnace or your air handler. Airflow is also the key to a comfortable home. A MERV 10 rated filter captures 80% or better of particles between the sizes of 0.3 and 10 microns. This may not seem like a significant difference compared to the MERV 8 filter, but a MERV 8 is capable of capturing between 65% to 79% of these smaller particles. For Merv 8-10 filters, we recommend that you change your filter at least every 3 months, however changing your filter every 2 months provides better filtration which provides healthier and cleaner air in your home.

In general These filters will capture a large portion of the airborne particles and improve indoor air quality without making your energy costs rise significantly.

The higher MERV rating 11-16 are too restrictive for the unit, creating a barrier to good airflow. The HVAC system may struggle to pass air through the air filter and expend more energy in its attempts. Ultimately, system damage can result from use of such filters in home.